How can you make yourself stand out as a publisher on Facebook? We explore seven ways to encourage comments and build an engaged community around your content.
Pew Research ran a study on whether readers could remember where their news was coming from. Pew found that readers could only remember where they saw a piece of news from, 56 percent of the time. Younger audiences, those aged 18 to 29 years old, only remembered the source 47 percent of the time.
So the challenge is, how can you make your content stand out? This is especially difficult when it comes to social media platforms, where branding options and aesthetics can be limited.
Building an actively engaged community is key. Content that disrupts a user scrolling through the newsfeed, and compels that person to comment, is a far more memorable experience. Plus, Facebook is starting to promote comments too. The Book recently tested turning comments on posts into pop-out threads similar to Messenger.
The social aspect of social media has never been as emphasized as it is now.
Looking at NewsWhip Analytics, we can examine which news-focused Facebook Pages are seeing the most comments per post.
These publishers’ Facebook Pages drove some of the highest comments per post in February. As to be expected, there are several political publishers here, as politics has proven to be a very polarizing and often provocative topic.
We can also see in Analytics that comments are on the rise for some of these Pages, and others, between now and 2016.
Of course, quantity is not necessarily equal to quality, but the numbers still indicate these Pages are driving active participation on content. Let’s dive into some engaged communities and see what we can learn from them.
1. Encourage Participation
Ask and you shall receive. Social media brings your readers into the newsroom closer than ever, and it’s time to recognize the value they can add. You can crowdsource these user-generated responses across your platforms, further extending their value. By giving your community a voice, you show readers you appreciate their engagement.
Vox used its Facebook Page to crowdsource readers’ experiences with contacting state officials regarding the Affordable Care Act. Vox even responded back to its readers, asking for more information and prompting them to share more.
AJ+ did this on a hot topic, asking its readers to share any hate speech they’ve experienced. Although the post linked to an external site for submission, the post drew comments from AJ+’s Facebook audience.
As you ask for reader’s thoughts, you may start noticing super-commenters. That is, people who are consistently responding to content and other readers with thoughtful or otherwise valuable insights. You can reach out to them and find more opportunities to include these highly engaged individuals.
2. Go Live
Live video now creates an experience that your readers can take join in real-time. Your audience could be far-flung across the globe, but with Facebook Live, there’s opportunity for your readers to come together and participate directly, no matter where they are.
Refinery29 hosted a Live video with Tinder on a subject its audience could relate to: navigating online dating.
Viewers responded with their own thoughts and experiences, and Refinery29 linked to the Instagram accounts of the presenters.
Like Refinery29’s video above, another way to keep the conversation growing is by adding additional context or external links. Even if your readers aren’t initially drawn in by the post itself, other angles or questions in the comments might prompt a response. This could be other articles, or anything and anyone connected to this particular content.
3. Inspire Offline Activity
Another way to prompt engagement is by sharing content that gets users involved. This can encourage offline activity, which can turn into word-of-mouth opportunities. This turns your content into a real-life experience for your readers.
NowThis posted an extreme knitting project recently, while HelloGiggles posted a tutorial on lavender-infused putty that viewers could make. Both of these were relevant to their publishers; NowThis’s project was something out of the ordinary, while HelloGiggles’s tutorial encouraged self-care.
If you are a local publisher, or have big audiences in certain locations, this could even translate into meet-ups between your readers. This could be especially impactful around newsworthy events, such as last week’s International Women’s Day.
4. Provocative Topics
There are some topics that currently always seem to lend themselves to discussion. And, they don’t necessarily have to be political, which may be a relief to many of us.
ATTN:, which was one of our top publisher picks for 2017, has done this well. While some videos do have a political focus, other highly-commented videos concentrate on a variety of thought-provoking topics, such as elderly care, the cost of living, and breastfeeding.
This post drove over 3,400 comments for ATTN: as people joined in with their thoughts and personal experiences.
Another publisher, OZY, does well with promoting discussion on its content. Again, while there is political content, OZY also sees engaging comments for content around mental health, social issues, and crime.
While this post only drove 535 comments, the comments were high quality and added to the discussion.
5. Be Relatable
Along with posting thought-provoking content, another way to encourage your followers to start commenting is by posting content that’s relatable to their lives.
This video from the Dodo drove comments from followers who shared photos of their own special needs pets.
Another tactic for this is by posting stories that prompts readers to tag one of their friends. You can suggest this in the content itself, or create stories that really put the reader into the post.
This story from Odyssey saw most of its comments include tags to other Facebook users, bringing them into the conversation.
Being relatable also comes down to your audience. The story doesn’t need to be relatable to everyone under the sun, but it should be relatable to your audience, certainly.
TechCrunch is a niche interest publisher that succeeds here, by posting innovative tech news that will appeal to its readers. Beyond focused interest publishers, those with local audiences can do well with related content, such as TimeOut NY.
6. Talk back
As we mentioned earlier, directly soliciting responses from your readers about their lives or expertise can work. One way to keep that conversation going, and make it into a memorable experience, is by responding back to them.
Again, it comes down to what will resonate with your audience. What sort of responses to their comments will add value to the conversation? Would it be supplying more information, recognizing their experiences, or adding an entertaining comeback?
Refinery29 uses gifs and emoji to respond to its readers. While certainly not a method for everyone, it does work for Refinery29’s digital-savvy, younger audience.
7. Find What People Are Talking About Right Now
Need inspiration? Let’s take a look in NewsWhip Spike, to see where people are engaging the most right now. What stories are getting Facebook users chatting?
We can limit our search to a one-hour view, or even 30 minutes, to only see the most recent content. This story from CNN was the second most-commented post on Facebook within a 30-minute view.
If we want to get more niche, Spike allows us to do that. We can narrow our focus to a specific region or topic, to make sure we’re finding the stories that our audience will specifically resonate with.
When we looked at a one-hour view of Irish publishers, we found this story was driving the most comments across Facebook.
Let’s recap. To get your users commenting, there are many tactics to take:
- Ask your readers directly for their ideas
- Create a Live video experience
- Encourage offline, ‘try this at home’ activities
- Focus on provocative topics
- Be relatable to their lives and interests
- Respond to readers’ comments
- Find the stories that are engaging your audience now
With these tactics, you’re well on your way to cultivating an engaged audience. This will build you a reputation for posting content that promotes discourse, and stand out from being just another publisher in the news feed.